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Investors Cut Apple Holdings by Most Since at Least 2008

Elena Popina
Apple Inc. iPhone X smartphones are displayed during the sales launch at a store in New York, U.S., on Friday, Nov. 3, 2017. The $1,000 price tag on Apple Inc.'s new iPhone X didn't deter throngs of enthusiasts around the world who waited -- sometimes overnight -- in long lines with no guarantee they would walk out of the store with one of the coveted devices. Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg

Institutional investors haven’t been this skeptical on Apple Inc. since at least the financial crisis.

They reduced their holdings in the iPhone maker by about 153 million shares in the first three months of the year, an analysis of 13F filings showed. That’s the biggest decrease since at least the first quarter of 2008 when Bloomberg started tracking the data. It’s also the most among any S&P 500 stock in the first quarter.

The drop in holdings is the third such reduction in the last four quarters, with the outlier being an 8.6 million share increase in the last three months of 2017. Investor enthusiasm for Apple has somewhat lessened this year amid concern about whether the company will be able to sustain its pace of iPhone unit sales, though the stock is up 10 percent year-to-date.

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Of course one notable exception to the trend is Warren Buffett. Berkshire Hathaway Inc. bought an additional 75 million shares of Apple in the first quarter, to become the company’s third-largest investor.

Meanwhile, institutional investors either increased their positions in Apple’s FANG peers or cut them by fewer than 10 million shares, the analysis of the filings showed.

Bank of America Corp, Wells Fargo & Co., Citigroup Inc. were among the top 10 stocks and exchange-traded funds that saw reductions in holdings in the first quarter. Institutions cut their positions in Bank of America by about 135 million shares, Citigroup by about 67 million shares and Wells Fargo by about 46 million shares.

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Among the biggest winners were emerging market funds. Institutional investors boosted their positions in the iShares Core MSCI Emerging Markets ETF and the iShares MSCI Emerging Markets ETF by about 70 million and 46 million shares respectively.

Tuesday is the deadline for institutional investment managers with more than $100 million in assets to file their first-quarter 13F reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Adds share price performace to third paragraph; a previous version of the story corrected spelling of Securities and Exchange Commission in last paragraph.

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